Russian aerospace industry details Ka-52 upgrade program

The Sazykin Aircraft Plant in Arsenyev in Primorye region began to produce Ka-52 helicopters ten years ago in late October 2008. The gunships became operational in November 2011 and five years later debuted in the Syrian combat. The Russian armed forces will receive 114 Ka-52 in the coming years. The new modifications take into account the experience of combat engagement in Syria, the Zvezda broadcaster said.

Russian aerospace industry details Ka 52 upgrade program A Russian armed forces' Ka-52 attack helicopter
(Credit: Ministry of Defence of Russia)

The design of Ka-50 two-seater began in 1994. The maiden flight took place on June 25, 1997. The craft was 85 percent unified with serial Ka-50. It carried the optical-electronic Samshit-E gyrostabilizer and 24-hour viewing and aiming Rotor system. Ka-52 controls have been upgraded. The two-seater can be controlled by the navigator in case the captain is wounded or killed.

Ka-52 upgrade lasted up to 2006. The modernized helicopter got better electronics. In particular, Ka-52 received Argument-2000 electronic warfare complex. It comprises Arbalet-52 radar designed by Fasotron-NIIR Corporation in Moscow. Ka-52 can now detect targets at a distance of 10 km in daytime and 5-6 km at night.

The payload comprises two tons. Ka-52 is armed with 30mm 2A42 gun, antitank 9K113U Shturm-VU laser-guided complex, various unguided and guided missiles and air bombs.

The helicopter has upgraded turboshaft engines of the TV3-117 family which confirmed reliability in hot and cold climates and in the mountains. The capacity is 2700 HP. Ka-52 range is 520 km, horizontal speed is 310 km/h, cruising speed is 250 km/h, side speed - 80 km/h, reverse speed - 90 km/h.

Fuel tanks and the most important units have additional protection or standby units. The helicopter is equipped with automatic fire-extinguishing system. The crew can eject from an altitude of several meters to 4.1 km.

Ka-52 for the first time engaged in combat in Syria. The new helicopters were deployed there in early 2016. The first footage of the engagement of a pair of Ka-52 appeared in the Internet in April 2016. The craft fired unguided S-8 missiles at terrorists in the area of Al-Qaryatayn 150 kilometers northeast of Damascus.

"The public is unaware of the details of Ka-52 combat engagement. It was likely successful, but some uncritical remarks were exposed, as it often happens with new hardware, and modernization guidelines determined," Chief Designer of 602 design bureau of MAI Dmitry Dyakonov said.

Open sources said Ka-52 upgrade R&D will take two years and will focus on better protection from large-caliber guns. The cockpit, controls and the main units will be covered by composite armor which is lighter but stronger than titanium plates.

At present Ka-52 sustains 7.62mm and 12.7mm bullet hits. The upgraded craft will be protected against ZU-23 antiaircraft guns which are widely used in the Middle East and are mounted by militants on cross-country vehicles. Ka-52 has also to sustain fire from 57mm automatic guns. The weight of the helicopter has to remain unchanged.

"No ground operation is possible without helicopter gunships which provide a clear edge to the infantry. Helicopters usually strike from the zone of adversary visibility and missiles are launched at a slow speed and low altitude. Therefore, reinforced armor is the right way of modernization," Dyakonov said.

In September 2018, Russian Helicopters Holding said work was ongoing to increase the range of Ka-52 weapons. The optical-electronic gyrostabilizer will be upgraded. Ka-52 arsenal will get Hermes-A multirole complex with a supersonic guided missile with a range of 20 km. The current Vikhr-M complex provides a range of 10 km.

Experts also want to increase the speed of operational helicopters. Dyakonov believes the cruising speed is not a combat priority. It is more important for a helicopter to quickly ascend, U-turn and maneuver.

"I believe it is necessary to focus on engine upgrade, increase its resource, the range of Ka-52, and decrease fuel consumption. It is excellent if the helicopter can reach the engagement area in minutes, but it does not increase its survivability," he said.

Dyakonov said Ka-52 has a major modernization potential. "It has excellent aerodynamics. The craft has been upgraded for over two decades and the result satisfied the expectations. The teams led by (Kamov Chief Designer Sergey) Mikheyev created a helicopter concept which will provide the armed forces with excellent gunships in decades to come," Dyakonov told the Zvezda.

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